CHICAGO FIRE FANZINE Created by ChicagoFireBlog.com
Fire finally drop the “interim” tag
Cristian Nazarit: Should he stay or should he go?
Report Card: Dishing out final season grades
Oduro scoops M.V.P.
ISSUE 2, November 2011
In This Issue 10 8
4 IN THE NEWS A look at who’s been making the headlines for the Fire.
18 ROAD TO THE CUP 2011 yielded a memorable run back to the USOC Final. Relive how the Fire got there.
6 DON’T STOP LIVING IN
A Fire supporter since 1998 talks about his love for the club and expectations for next year. 10 HEAD COACH NAMED HookNLadders explains why Frank Klopas deserved to be named Head Coach for 2012. 12 ON THE FRINGES We give our verdict over whether Cristian Nazarit still has a futre at the club. 15 RIO TO CHICAGO Could the reports about Manchester United’s star defender be true? 16 M.V.P. From being unwanted in Houston to being the Fire’s most valuable player.
20 HEARTBREAK IN SEATTLE A fifth U.S. Open Cup title will have to wait another year for the Kings of the Cup. 24 CAPITAL COMEBACK Relive the most memorable match of the Fire’s season, as chosen by the voters. 30 FINAL REPORT CARD We evaluate every player’s performance throughout the 2011 season. Not everyone passed. 34 SEASON STATISTICS See who topped the charts for the men in red. 36 SEASON IN NUMBERS A unique look at some of the most significant and obscure numbers from this season. 39 SEASON IN PICTURES A collage of some of the most memorable pictures fom the 2011 campaign.
Visit chicagofireblog.com for more up-to-date news and content on the Chicago Fire, including: • match previews • post-match analysis • breaking news • player profiles • statistics • player interviews
Chicago Fire Fanzine Thank you for taking the time to read the second issue of the Chicago Fire Fanzine, an online magazine created for Chicago Fire supporters and soccer fans in general. It’s now been two months since the debut of this publication and I’m thrilled with the success the Fanzine has had thus far. Thank you for your readership, I trust you’ll enjoy this issue as much as the first. Inside this issue you’ll find the latest news, player features, reflections on the 2011 season and a galore of statistics and photos.
A Season Review It’s only been a little over two weeks since the Chicago Fire concluded their season, but if you’re like me you are already experiencing withdrawals. No more Saturday night’s spent losing your voice at Toyota Park, no more Sunday afternoons spent watching Univision, and no more passing the time during the week debating who you think will be the hero or the villain in the upcoming match. Fortunately, there’s plenty to reflect on from a bittersweet yet memorable season for the Fire. The first few months of the season had us questioning if we would ever record a second win, while the final few weeks saw our beloved Men in Red fall agonizingly close of qualifying for the MLS Playoffs. And somewhere in between those events, the Fire enjoyed a tremendous run back to the final of the U.S. Open Cup Final and miss the chance to secure a record fifth USOC title. And that doesn’t even sum up half of it. Despite the disappointments along the way, this season provided us with plenty of memories and reason to be hopeful for next season. In this issue, we look back at some of the highlights from this season and the moments that defined the Fire’s 14th season in Major League Soccer. Don’t stop living in the red,
As always, enjoy! A very special thanks to HookNLadders for contributing to this issue! The cover is courtesy of the blog’s photographer, Ryan Byrne. Read their article on page 10.
Contact Jeff at:
IN THE NEWS Who’s been making the headlines for the Fire?
BAROUCH: The 20-year-old striker was called up the Israeli U-20 side on Thursday, Nov. 11th and 13th. This marks his second call-up to the squad after also featuring for his country in July against England. PARDO: Following the Fire’s 2-1 defeat to FC Dallas that saw Pavel receive his marching orders for a late tackle, Pardo expressed his desire to stay with Chicago for two more years. “Of course I’d like to come back. I was talking about this situation with the people from the Fire and they want me to here next year. And I want to be be here also, but not for one year, I’d like to be here for more years.”
KLOPAS: The Chicago Fire announced on Thursday, Nov. 3rd that the club appointed Frank Klopas as Head Coach for the 2012 season. Having served as the Fireâ€™s Technical Director since 2008, Klopas took up the coaching reigns as Interim Head Coach after the departure of Carlos de los Cobos last season. A member of the Ring of Fire, Klopas led the men in red to a sixth place finish in the Eastern Conference and a place in the U.S. Open Cup Final against Seattle and will look to lead the club to the playoffs next year for the first time since 2009. The Fire have yet to name a new technical Director. ANIBABA: Following his two goal display against Columbus in the final match of the season, Jalil Anibaba was awarded MLS Player of the Week honors to cap off an impressive rookie season for the Men in Red. Anibabaâ€™s goals were his first MLS goals of his career. Anibaba also became just the second Fire player to win the award this season after Marco Pappa received the honors for his hattrick against Real Salt Lake in September.
Not every Chicago Fire supporter can remember back to when the club played its first match in 1998. In fact, many fans had not even become endeared to the team, or even the sport of soccer, by that point. But for this monthâ€™s fan focus, we talk to a die-hard fan who has been there from the very beginning. Thirteen years after attending his very first Fire match, Brian Wozniak is now a season ticket holder and as passionate about the club as ever. Read what he has to say about his experience as a dedicated supporter and his views on this season and the upcoming one.
Brian, give a quick introduction about yourself and tell us a little bit about your background as an avid soccer fan? Well, my name is Brian Wozniak. I have lived all my life in the southwest suburb of Tinley Park, minus the four years I went away to school in Milwaukee. This fall is my 20th year playing soccer so I have been pretty much playing the game all my life, and my main position is keeper, however I have been known to play forward on occasion. I have attended several Chicago Fire games each year since their inaugural season in 1998, but became a full season ticket holder in Section 8 in 2009 when I returned home from college. Now onto the Chicago Fire. You’ve been a Fire supporter for a long time now, what drew you to your first Fire game all those years back? It was back in that wonderful year of 1998, my dad took me to my first game. My passion for the game began to grow around the time period especially after the 1994 World Cup and the announcement of the Chicago Fire Soccer club on Oct. 8th, 1997. With that, he made the decision to go to a game and check it out, not ever have been to a professional soccer game before. We didn’t know what to expect but had a great time and enjoyed every part of it, and since then I haven’t looked back. What would you describe as the highlight of your experience as a supporter so far? Being a supporter definitely has a special feel to it. It is the feeling of being a part of something, sharing a common goal and love for the team and other supporters. Since I have become a season ticket holder, I have met a lot of great people over the years in and out of Section 8. I would say the highlight of being a supporter was finally being able to afford to go to an away game and support the team on the road. That match happened to be the 2011 US Open Cup Final in Seattle. Being able to support the team in another city was an amazing experience. It didn’t matter that our small group of 175 supporters were drowned out for the most part by the other 31,000 Seattle fans, it was the fact that we were there supporting our team, and chanting and singing our hearts out for over five
straight hours. From leaving the pre-game bar before the game, down the streets of Seattle, and into the stadium, everyone gave it their all and we it meant a lot to the club and us.. And the lowest point? The lowest point as a Fire supporter I would say would has to have been the 2003 MLS Cup Final. That year we had such a great season and everyone of the team contributed to that. I was actually at my house that day for my birthday celebration with my family and there I was in my basement by myself watching the game on TV. I knew the importance of that game and was crushed that the Fire came up short. It was a mixed season for the Fire and one we all hoped would have ended a little better. What are your thoughts on the 2011 season? 2011 was a year that anyone could say was a failure, but I look at it in a not so negatively way. First off, yes we did not make the playoffs for a second consecutive year, however, at the end of the season with one game left, who had the Chicago Fire still in contention of the last playoff spot after how we started the season? No one did. I am personally glad that the Fire fired Carlos de los Cobos because I felt he never truly fit into the team and the league. After the firing took place, that is when the Fire’s season really started. A few games and a few new players later, Frankie and company finally started to click, something that hadn’t truly happened since 2009. Everyone was fighting for themselves, the team, Klopas, and most importantly the fans. It gave a renewed feeling to all supporters that we were once again backing something special. What are you hoping to see next year? (i.e. MLS Playoffs, U.S. Open Cup champs, an new signings, formations, etc.) Well as a fan, i can say I’d love to see the Double-Double happen in Chicago next year, but realistically I am hoping that the Fire continue what they had going the final two months of the 2011 season and make deep runs in both the US Open Cup and MLS Playoffs. If we continue on that road, I am sure everyone in the league will take notice that the Fire are not a pushover team
that we once were. Coming to Toyota Park/Cardinal Stadium/Soldier Field was also once a road game that most teams feared and over the past few years that hasn’t been the case. I look for the team to restore that fear into the opponents and that we protect our home turf.
the Fire would once again host a conference championship game.
If you had to name a favorite player to have ever played for the Fire, who would it be? And your favorite current player?
There is so much that goes on during match day that I really don’t have one particular favorite. I love to get there early and tailgate with all my friends and make my homemade burger, of course. Then comes match time. Being in Section 8 is an experience in itself. There is nothing like that in the Chicago sports scene. The only thing that it compares too, as someone once told me, was it was like being at a college football/basketball game. Another thing i like about match day is occasionally seeing Fire’s owner Andrew Hauptmann (spelling?) in the stands with section 8. I can only name a few owners across all sports that go into the stands and experience the atmosphere that section 8 creates. Then of course after the game we all usually get that free aldis milk and cheerios, I mean c’mon, what’s not to love about that!
So many players have been my favorites over the years. Early days you had Nowak, Klopas, and Thornton. Then you had the likes of Beasley, Bocanegra, Marsch, and Jaqua. The most recent generation you had Busch, Conde, Rolfe, and McBride. Overall though, I’d say my favorite player had to have been the one and only, Mr. Cuauhtemoc Blanco. He was an amazing player that brought a certain energy to the field every time he stepped onto it. He had amazing vision and had that “soccer sense” that left the stadium many times saying “did he just do that” ala The Blanco Bounce. Blanco also gave us many memorable goals, including the 2007 Goal of the Year. Currently Sean Johnson is my favorite player. Still young and has a lot to learn, but since he took over the starting role in 2010, he has kept the Chicago Fire tradition of great goalkeeping. He makes the saves no one expects him to and as a keeper myself, its a lot of fun to watch. I’m expecting a lot of great things from him in the years to come.
Lastly, apart from watching the team play and of course the famous ‘churro man’, what is your favorite thing about match day’s at Toyota Park?
What is the most memorable match you have ever attended? Wow, that’s a really hard question. Some of the ones I can think of off the top of my head would be the ‘03 Eastern Conference Finals ’09 Superliga Final and the amazing comeback against Colorado, and in 2011 you had the home and away games against Columbus and ’11 US Open Cup Final in Seattle. But if I had to pick my most memorable match, I would have to say it was the playoff game at home against New England in 2009. Capacity stadium with standing room only, awesome atmosphere in Section 8, rivalry game in the playoffs, great weather, flares going off, amazing goals by the Fire which lead to a victory over the Revs, it was a perfect storm. On top of the victory, it also insured
Chicago Fire supporters light off flares during a memorable 2-0 win against New England in the Eastern Conference semi-finals in 2009.
You can follow Brian on Twitter at @ fresoxpakfanwoz
A Fire Legend Are you a Fire fan interested in featuring in ‘Don’t Stop Living in the Red’? Chicago Fire Blog will be posting features on its website throughout the off-season and is looking for Fire fans willing to share their story as a supporter.
A future Legend?
HEAD COACH Chicago drops Klopas’ Interim tag...
Written by: JR Patton and Ryan Byrne
We can all agree that Carlos de los Cobos did a terrible job as Fire boss. So much so, that any replacement would have looked like a godsend in comparison. This, however, is not the only reason that Frank Klopas deserves to be highly commended on the job he did this season – and fully deserving of his new, shorter title. Klopas was in a fairly win-win situation as far as his coaching career went; he came onto a sinking ship and tried stop it from sinking. He could’ve easily mailed it in and just been content to guide this team through to the end of the season where he could start the search for a new head man. However, this wasn’t his plan and he did one hell of a job turning this season around for the Fire. When Klopas took over the Fire were sitting near the basement in the league table and power rankings, and had a record of 1-8-4, good for 11 points. Klopas guided the team to an 8-8-5 record down the stretch, amassing 32 points in his 21 matches as Fire interim-boss and keeping the Fire in the playoff picture until the second to last day of the season. He also helped guide the Fire to their 6th US Open Cup final appearance in the team’s short history. It was obvious to anyone who followed this club that the players responded to Klopas, they respected him – and he respected them. As technical director Klopas made some great moves. He brought in players like Dominic Oduro, Diego Chaves, Sebastian Grazzini, Daniel Paladini, Pavel Pardo, and Orr Barouch
Frank Klopas deserves to become Head Coach on permanent basis. (on loan). As it was pointed out to me by one of our readers, he got Gaston Puerari for free and then sold him. And the most important acquisition in my mind was that of Dan Gargan. In my mind, that was the move that changed the whole attitude of this club, but I believe that’s because Gargan bought into Klopas’ system and helped spread that throughout the locker room. At the beginning of the season the Fire were starting Chaves and Puerari up top, with Nyarko on the wing and Oduro in Houston. CDC played around with a few different formations while he was here, but it seemed that the Fire would only score if Marco Pappa was able to find the back of the net. Once Klopas took over, that all changed. Klopas paired Nyarko and Oduro up top, a combination that proved to be too fast and lethal for most of the league to handle, and one that propelled Oduro into the golden boot race. After acquiring Gargan, Klopas was able to move rookie Jalil Anibaba back to his more natural position at CB and the additions of Pardo and Grazzini helped shore up the midfield, and create a larger threat in the offensive third. To me, the two biggest tests of Klopas’ coaching ability were the last two matches of the season. After playing a tough 0-0 draw into the waning moments of the match at DC the Fire conceded a PK that no one expected Dwayne De Rosario to miss. He didn’t. Going into stoppage time the Fire were down 1-0 in a match that they needed the full three points from in order to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Turning to Diego Chaves seemed like a mistake to me. He had been in poor form since May, and I was screaming at Frank. But, that’s why he’s down there coaching and I’m not – Chaves eventually netted the game winner and Chicago pulled off a miraculous 2-1 victory in the final seconds in DC. By the time Chicago took the pitch against Columbus Saturday night their playoff hopes were completely dashed and they had nothing left to play for. All that stood between them and an off-season full of golf and skiing was 90 minutes that they needed to get over
with. But, again, somehow Frank motivated his team to go out and play their best and even after they gave up a late lead they were able to scratch and claw to get the winner (again through Chaves) in a game that they could’ve easily just mailed in and settled for a 2-2 draw. There is not a doubt in my mind that Frank Klopas has the ability to motivate and connect with these players and get them to perform on the pitch. He’s Fire through and through and I’m glad to see him take control of the team on the field. Using the second half of 2011 as a measuring stick and looking toward 2012 with a full season of Frank at the helm – things look to be moving in the right direction.
‘HOOKNLADDERS’ is a blog about the Chicago Fire operated by a small supporters’ group created in 2011 by JR Patton and Ryan Byrne. The site offers match previews, match reviews, and various feature stories on a regular basis. The group’s main goal is to introduce new Fire fans to the best soccer experience in the MLS. They also host a tailgate at most home games featuring beer, burgers, brats, dogs, and music.
On The Fringes The highest paid player on the Fire, but just six starts and two goals to show for it.
Should he go or should he stay?
When it comes to scoring your first goal for a club, it doesn’t get much better than doing it in the 90th minute against a rival team in front of 400 traveling supporters. Cristian Nazarit opened his scoring account with the Fire in some style against the Columbus Crew and, more importantly, snapped a horrendous eleven match winless streak to give the Fire just its second league win of the season back in June. Things haven’t exactly gone to plan since then, however. Following that memorable match winning goal on June 12th, Nazarit scored just once for the Fire and made just three more starts to add to his previous three starts. In fact, only Corben Bone and Mike Videira recorded less minutes than Nazarit in league play through the entire season. If further evidence of Nazarit’s failure to make an impact last season is needed, his last appearance for the club arrived on August 21st as a 90th minute sub in the Fire’s 2-0 win over Toronto FC at Toyota Park, meaning the Columbian striker failed to appear in any of the club’s matches during the final two months of the season. His most recent start dates back even further on July 16th in a disappointing home defeat to Portland. With things not going so smoothly on the field, Nazarit also found himself criticized away from the pitch when the MLS released an updated salary list in mid September, revealing Nazarit to be the Fire’s highest paid player. It wasn’t even the fact that he was the club’s highest paid player that irritated supporters, but it was the incredible gulf between his salary and the next highest earner (Logan Pause) that raised plenty of eyebrows around Chicago. If you crunch the numbers, Nazarit earned approximately $50,417 per start last season and a whopping $151,250 per goal. Numbers aside, Nazarit simply didn’t live up to the billing this season and never looked like earning his spot back
in the starting eleven, much in part due to the highly effective partnership between Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko. When he was given opportunities, Nazarit often failed to impose himself on matches and generally failed to cause problems for opposing defenses. Given his size and stature, Nazarit has the look of a perfect target man. Unfortunately, even that aspect of his game was disappointing and not being able to link up well with fellow strikers didn’t help his cause either. That said, it’s important to note that Nazarit is only 21-years-old and many strikers require a season under their belt to fully adjust to a new team and a new league. If Nazarit does remain a member of the Chicago Fire next season, don’t expect him to open the floodgates, but do expect him to contribute more than he did this season. Prior to joining the Fire, Nazarit played in the youth ranks for his hometown club América de Cali in the Columbian Categoria Primera A for a year before moving to rivals Independiente Santa Fe. Nazarit spent three seasons with the Santa Fe and scored sixteen goals in 42 appearances and following a short trial in Chicago, the Fire signed Nazarit at the beginning of May in order to bolster its attacking options. “He’s a pure number nine striker that plays very high up,” said Fire Technical Director Frank Klopas following the acquisition of Nazarit. “A very strong player that has good pace and can play with his back to goal but also has good depth. When you provide service to him he’s very good in the air and has a very strong ability to shoot from distance.” His goal ratio as a teenager for Santa Fe was
impressive and during his three-year stint with the club and he also demonstrated speed, power and an eye for goal – all positive signs for the potential to become a great forward. Unfortunately, Fire fans have yet to really witness those same traits that helped become a prominent figure in the Columbian U-20 side. Having closely watched Nazarit ever since he made his Chicago Fire debut against San Jose on May 28th, I’ve seen signs here and there that hint towards a bright future, but proper evidence to his full potential is still lacking. At 21-years-old, not many players can boast as impressive of a physical prowess as the former Santa Fe striker. Nazarit scored plenty of goals from set-pieces during his three year stint with Sante Fe and looks capable of becoming a powerful striker whose best role lies right behind a strike partner. Nazarit has disappointed when he’s been deployed on his own and he looks like the type of striker that could flourish with a solid strike partnership, something he hasn’t been given the chance to develop since joining the Fire.
Nazarit has also impressed for the Fire in the MLS Reserve League but he still needs to convert that same form to the first team. Interim Head Coach Frank Klopas certanly found an effective strike partnership in Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko and, as a result, first team opportunities could continue to be limited for Nazarit next season. But with a bumper pay roll and an impressive season in the reserves, evidence suggests that Nazarit could still very well be a member of the Chicago Fire next season. Several factors could play a role, mainly whether the Fire decide to hand Klopas the full-time job or if the club brings in a new coach. There’s also the chance the Fire could bring in another striker to replace Nazarit – possibly one that takes up significantly less space on the team’s wage bill. All factors considered, Nazarit hasn’t received enough first team opportunities to really prove himself and could very well prosper next season if given the opportunity. However, the Fire need to strongly consider lowering his salary if they do plan to maintain his services.
Nazarit was once donned the ‘next Eto’o’ and was even linked with a move to Real Madrid and Chelsea.
It all started with an EXCLUSIVE in the Daily Mail claiming the Chicago Fire were looking to make Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand their ‘David Beckham’. Ferdinand, who turned 33 on November 7th, has spent eight seasons with the reigning Premier League champions and has established himself as one of the world’s top center-backs. But with young English defenders Chris Smalling and Phil Jones proving their worth for United this season, rumors have been rife about Ferdinand’s future with the club. Regardless of all the talk about Ferdinand no longer being good enough to maintain his position in Manchester United’s starting eleven, any talk of Rio desiring for a move to Major League Soccer and the Chicago Fire should be taken with a grain of salt. For starters, Ferdinand still has a big role to play with the England National Team and a move to the MLS would see him face a similar challenge to David Beckham to hold his spot in the side. Contrary to popular belief, Ferdinand still has a huge role to play for United this season and any close follower of the EPL should be aware of this (City performance aside). The most interesting aspect about the circulating rumors were the amount of conflicting reports. “Fire confirm interest”, “Fire deny interest”. Take it for what you will, I suppose!
BOOM GOES THE DOMINIC...
2011 M.V.P. U
nsuccessful in Dallas. Unwanted in New York. Unappreciated in Houston. Finally, Dominic Oduro has found his home in Chicago. And if there has ever been a relationship where both parties have fully reaped the rewards, this is it. After being criticized for his lack of finishing abilities during his two-year stint with the Dynamo, Oduro arrived in Chicago with a point to prove and he certainly managed to do just that. Less than eight months after joining the Fire in a trade that sent Calen Carr the other way, Oduro’s 2011 Team Most Valuable Player has gone some way to silencing the doubters. ‘He can’t finish.’ ‘He’s fast but has no end product.’ These are just a few of the things that were being said about Dominic Oduro when he signed for the Fire on March 23rd. Now, there are those in
Chicago and around the rest of the country that would beg to differ. When the season rapidly reached its conclusion, thoughts eventually turned to team awards and who would be scooping this year’s various honors. Supporters always love to argue about who will win what but this year there has been very little argument over who deserved to be named the team’s M.V.P. For what was a largely disappointing season for the Fire, barring the run to the US Open Cup final and the last few weeks of the regular season, a few bright spots emerged for the Fire. Sebastian Grazzini proved to be exactly what the Fire were missing throughout the majority of this season with numerous influential displays as a center attacking midfielder, Pavel Pardo arrived and helped stabilize the midfield, and Sean Johnson
continued to impress in between the posts. But if there was one player who consistently impressed and shone for the Fire, it was Oduro.
in the running for the league’s golden boot during the late stages of the season.
Although Fire fans were sad to see Calen Carr leave ChiThe Ghanaian striker formed cago, most supporters will have a highly effective partnership up believed they were getting the front with fellow countryman better of the trade at the time due Patrick Nyarko and the two to Carr’s injury problems. Nowaexcelled in attack for the Fire. days, there is simply no debating Nyarko racked up nine the fact. Few could have hoped assists while Oduro for such a phenomended the season enal debut season After the first goal with 12 league for the number eight I just felt relieved goals, including 14 and few will have and that was it. in all competitions. expected him to end Everything just Oduro also became the season as the started rolling for the first player to Fire’s undisputed me. Everything tally double digit Most Valuable Player. worked out well. goals in a season for In fact, we all expectDominic Oduro the Fire since Damed the likes of Diego M.V.P. ani Ralph in 2004. Chaves and Cristian Oduro also scored a Nazarit to be bangnumber of hugely important ing in the goals for the men in goals for the Fire, including red but instead it was Oduro who match winning strikes against shone brightest for the Fire this Chivas USA and the Richmond year. Winning the team’s M.V.P. is Kickers in the USOC semi-final nothing short of a just award for at Toyota Park. Dominic and, if anything, a small token of our grattitude. Oduro’s statistics certainly speak for themselves, but so does Following a 1-1 draw with the everything else he did on the New York Red Bulls at Toyota pitch this season. Oduro Park in June, I asked Dominic if exhibited a never-say-die attihe tude throughout the season and preferred playing on the wing, displayed an eagerness to always where he was originally deployed, put the team first, demonstrated or if he favored a position at the through his willingness to play forefront of the Fire’s attack. His as a striker or a winger. From the answer? very beginning, you could tell “I’m blessed to be on the field. Oduro was simply happy to be I’m just happy to be on the field in Chicago. He came here with a humble attitude and a determina- playing for my team.” tion to help this organization and A few months later and we are he did much, much more than the ones who are blessed to have simply help this organization. him on the field. We’re just happy He was as reliable as anyone this you’re here, Dom. season and even found himself
Past M.V.P. winners
2006: Andy Herron 2007: Cuauhtémoc Blanco 2008: Jon Busch 2009: Brian McBride 2010: Logan Pause
The Road to the Cup Kings of the Cup: The Chicago Fire began the 2011 season with two goals: To qualify for the MLS playoffs and to win the U.S. Open Cup. With four USOC titles in the club’s trophy room, the Fire boast a rich history and have won the cup more times than any other Major League Soccer team and made their intentions in this
year’s competition with each passing round. While many MLS sides fielded its reserves for USOC matches, Frank Klopas demonstrated the team’s desire to secure a record fifth Open Cup Championship. Time and time again the men in red stated their intent to win the cup and writing their names into the history books.
Qualifiers: Chicago Fire vs. Colorado Rapids March 29, 2011 - Shea Stadium, Peoria, Illinois Facing a weakened Colorado side, the Fire kicked off the 2011 US Open Cup campaign in memorable fashion. Moments before the break, Diego Chaves slipped the ball through to Puerari who then cut in past a Rapids’ defender and placed a shot into the bottom right hand corner to give the Fire the lead. Colorado would pull one back after the break, but a stunning 40-yard effort from Jalil Anibaba through a mysterious fog ensured the Fire would not be denied.
Chicago Fire vs. San Jose Earthquakes May 24, 2011 - Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, California Down 2-0 with 30 minutes remaining, the Fire looked set to miss the U.S. Open Cup proper for the first time in its history. Substitute Orr Barouch, a relatively unknown to many Fire supporters at this point, scored in the 61st minute to provide Chicago with a lifeline and fifteen minutes later Yamith Cuesta scored off a header to send the match to extra-time. Gonzalo Segares was sent off for abusive language but the hosts failed to make the advantage count, ensuring penalties were on the cards. The Fire held their nerves to win 5-4.
Third round: Chicago Fire vs. Rochester Rhinos June 28, 2011 - Sahlen’s Stadium, Rochester, New York Chicago traveled all the way to the East coast in late June to take on USL side Rochester Rhinos at Sahlen’s stadium for a David and Goliath type clash. Klopas fielded a strong side and Diego Chaves provided the winner with a goal in the 37th minute in what was an extremely scrappy game. It may not have been pretty, but all that mattered was the Fire booking its place in the next round. *The Fire were buoyed by the support of a group of Section 8 supporters who made the 10 hour trek from Chicago to support the men in red.
Quarterfinals: Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls July 12, 2011 - Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Illinois A power outage at Toyota Park forced kick-off to be moved ahead two hours and, to the delight of the Fire faithful, free admission for everyone. Even if Fire supporters were forced to pay for their tickets, they would have gotten their money’s worth as the men in red put the New York Red Bulls B team to the sword with a resounding 4-0 win. Dominic Oduro opened the scoring in the seventh minute before Yamith Cuesta doubled the Fire’s advantage with a header four minutes into the second half. Orr Barouch then stepped off the bench to grab a brace and send New York packing as the men in red booked their place in the semi-finals of the oldest club soccer competition in America.
Semi-final: Chicago Fire vs. Richmond Kickers August 30, 2011 - Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Illinois The passion of the 8,909 fans inside Toyota Park was visible for all to see and the message was clear as daylight: this competition means everything to this club. Fielding a full-strength side once again, Chicago received a golden opportunity to take the lead when Richmond’s Dave Hertel slid in on Patrick Nyarko inside the penalty box, upending the Ghanaian and presenting the Fire with a penalty in the process. Grazzini made no mistake from the spot, dispatching his kick low and to the right as Ronnie Pascale guessed the wrong way. The Fire would eventually find a second goal minutes later through a very much in-form Oduro. Chicago’s number eight received a pass from Nyarko on the left wing and immediately raced forward, cut inside onto his right foot and curled an absolute beauty into the top right hand corner past a despairing Pascale. Ironically, Pascale was on the coaching staff of Virginia Commonwealth University when Oduro attended school there. William Yomby pulled a goal back for Richmond minutes later but it wasn’t enough to derail the Fire in its pursuit of a record fifth US Open Cup title.
Heartbreak in Seattle FIRE Starting XI: 25 - Johnson 3 - Gargan, 23 - Mikulic
Seattle Sounders 2 Montero 72’, Alonso 90+’
SOUNDERS Starting XI: 18 - Keller 7 - Riley 34 - Hurtado 31 - Parke
5 - Gibbs
12 - Gonzalez
13 - Segares 12 - Pause
15 - Fernandez
17 - Pardo
6 - Alonso 3 - Evans
11 - Paladini
27 - Neagle
16 - Pappa
17 - Montero
8 - Oduro
2 - Fucito
14 - Nyarko
rom the very beginning of the season, Frank Klopas and the rest of the Chicago Fire made their goals for the season very clear: to qualify for the MLS playoffs and to win the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Following a memorable 2-1 win over the Richmond Kickers in the semi-finals of the U.S. Open Cup, the Fire traveled to Seattle to take on the competition’s holders at Quest Field in hopes of securing its record fifth USOC championship. The Sounders, meanwhile, sought to become the first MLS side to win three consecutive U.S. Open Cup titles. The Fire entered the match in fine form, losing just once out of its last ten matches in all competitions and arrived in Seattle confident of bringing the cup back to Chicago for the first time since 2006. Unfortunately for the men in red, that wait was forced to continue as the Sounders ran out worthy 2-0 winners in front of a record crowd. In the dying minutes of the U.S. Open Cup final on Tuesday night you simply had to question, could such a memorable cup run really end like this? Backs against the wall, defending desperately against a constant sea of green, and having the big Sean Johnson and both posts to thank for keeping the Chicago Fire alive, it seemed the Fire were on course to pull of one of the most improbable cup final victories in years. And then it finally happened. The pressure continued to mount on the Fire’s defense and on a 78th minute corner, Sean Johnson pulled off a brilliant save to deny Park’s powerful header, but the rebound fell into the path of Freddy Montero. The ___ could make no mistake from two yards out and while Chicago searched for an equalizer, Seattle sought to kill the game off with a crucial second. After Evans spurned a beautiful chance for the Sounders on the break, the Fire pushed forward and found themselves with plenty of numbers in the box. Desperate for an equalizer to send the match into extra-time, Sebastian Grazzini – who entered the match as an 85th minute substitute – lobbed the ball into the six yard bard box where Cory Gibbs climbed
highest to knock it down to Dominic Oduro. With Fire supporter’s hearts in their mouths, Oduro powered a header towards Keller Kasey. The former U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper saved with relative ease, and it wouldn’t have counted as Oduro was slightly offside anyways, but it was at that moment you had to sense that this was not going to be the Fire’s night. The effort by Oduro was his first attempt on goal all night and it would be both his and Chicago’s last as Osvaldo Alonso wrapped up proceedings with what Sean Johnson described as a “world class goal” in the sixth and final minute of stoppage time. Even before Alonso’s goal, it was difficult foreseeing the Fire overcoming a one goal deficit with just 14 minutes left. Prior to Fredy Montero’s strike in 76th minute, the Fire provided very little going forward and their best work was in the defensive area –particularly through
the heroic Sean Johnson. The 22-year-old, who was nearly half the age of his opposite number Kasey Keller on Tuesday night, performed brilliantly and kept the Fire alive with several top notch saves in both halves. Chicago’s defense was often cut open too easily by Seattle, but when they were, Johnson was on hand to bail the Fire out. It comes as a real shame that one of his best saves of the match, a leaping save to his right to deny Jeff Parke’s header on a corner-kick, resulted in the Sounders’ opening goal as Montero found himself in the right place at the right time. The Fire would experience no such luck. Then again, they failed to really create any of their own luck either. Oduro and Nyarko failed to effectively connect with each other in attack, Pavel Pardo and Logan Pause were unable to provide any attacking spark in the midfield, and Marco Pappa often looked content on doing things on his own.Fire supporters begged for the introduction of Grazzini, the player largely responsible for turning this season around for the men in red, but by the time the Argentinean entered the match it was too little and too late. “It had nothing to do with it being the 85th minute,” Klopas told mlssoccer.com afterwards. “I knew
the guy, talked to him, and he said he could give us 10 minutes.” His absence was evident throughout the first 85 minutes of the match. Seattle enjoyed the bulk of possession and when the Fire did regain possession, they often wasted it with poor passes and lofty long balls towards Oduro and Nyarko. A playmaker like Grazzini could have provided the Fire with much needed composure in midfield and a viable weapon in the attacking third. In the end, the Sounders were worthy winners and Sigi Schmidt and his side deserved credit for clinching their third successive U.S. Open Cup title. The 2009 MLS Expansion side is now just one title short of equaling the Fire’s haul of four USOC titles, a record that is not taken lightly in Chicago. On the other hand, the Fire are still one U.S. Open Cup title away from equaling Maccabi Los Angeles and Bethlehem Steel’s tally of five tournament wins – a high for any club in the U.S. Open Cup. Despite the loss, the Chicago Fire are still the kings of the cup and they will undoubtedly seek to make amends in this competition next year and ease the heartache felt this season.
QUOTE SHEET “I‘m proud of the effort from our group, obviously disappointed because we put a lot into the game.” -Frank Klopas “It’s disappointing. We came here to win. We were under the gun all night. They’re a great team, one of the best in the league. It was a great atmosphere and home field advantage. The better team won tonight unfortunately.” - Logan Pause
“I’m proud of my team for the effort we put forth. It’s never easy coming out of a game, especially a championship, with a loss, having worked so hard to get here.” - Sean Johnson “It was a hard fought game. I thought Chicago played very well. Their players were giving everything they had and committed themselves totally to the game.” - Sigi Schmid
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Match of the Season Incredible. Impossible. Inspiring. Unforgettable. The list could go on and on...
Chicago Fire 2
Grazzini 90’, Chaves 90’
De Rosario 90’ Every season has at least one match, one victory that has you on the edge of your seat, be it in your living room or in the stadium, that captures the imagination and exceeds all expectation with a stunning goal or a brilliant performance. For the Chicago Fire, that match was against DC United at RFK Stadium in the penultimate fixture of the 2011 season. Following a crushing 2-1 midweek defeat to FC Dallas, the Fire were well aware that anything less than three points against DC United would rule out any chance of qualifying for the MLS playoffs. As the match entered the 90th minute of play, it appeared the Chicago Fire’s
already slim playoff hopes were finally fading away for good. Moments earlier, MLS’ likely Golden Boot winner Dwayne De Rosario blasted home a penalty after Gonzalo Segares was adjudged to have fouled Santino Quaranta inside the box. RFK stadium was ecstatic. And few could’ve blamed them as DC United entered the match on the back of three straight losses. But all of a sudden, the craziest, most pulsating and unforgettable five minutes of the Fire’s season ensued. It was a series of events no one associated with the Chicago Fire organization will ever, ever forget. The emotions of the players summed it all up perfectly, while the celebrations on the Fire bench provided the exclamation point. Meanwhile, 600 miles away in Chicago, the Globe Pub erupted with a combination of shock and jubilation at seeing the men in red pull off one of the most improbable comebacks imaginable.
It all started with a Grazzini golazo – the second one Fire fans have witnessed in the space of four days following his impressive consolation goal against FC Dallas three days earlier. It’s safe to say this one certainly meant a little more.
After Nyarko whipped in a cross into the DC United box from the right, substitute Orr Barouch flicked the ball onto Segares, who managed to control possession and lay the ball back to Grazzini at the top of the eighteen, allowing the Argentinean to immediately half-volley a stunning, curling shot between two DC United defenders and past a grounded Bill Hamid. As great of a goal as it was, surely it was only another
brilliant consolation goal for him and the Fire and nothing more? That wouldn’t be the case this time. Just over sixty seconds later, Segares played the ball forward to Barouch and set off on an overlapping run down the left wing in a full sprint. The Israeli U-20 striker quickly turned and lobbed a ball over DC’s defense into the path of Segares, who somehow managed to keep the in play and send in a cross past the onrushing Hamid. And what occurred next was a scene no one would’ve predicted. While several of DC’s backline stuttered and halted their runs to appeal for offside on Segares, Diego Chaves continued his run to find himself free at the six yard box to slide in and score the all important winner. If anything could possibly make
the goal anymore special than it already was for the Fire, it is the fact that Chaves hadn’t scored since April 23rd, nearly six months ago. The goal meant everything to the Fire, clearly evident through the ensuing pile of Fire players on top of Chaves and the ecstatic celebrations amongst Chicago’s bench on the sideline. When Chaves finally emerged from the bottom of a pile of red jerseys, a gleaming smile told the whole story. That goal meant everything. A miraculous comeback, a testament of character, the most incredible five minutes ever. Call it what you will, the win over DC United, which unfolded through a sensational five minutes of injury time drama, looked set to define the
Fire’s season. Unfortunately for the men in red, a narrow 1-0 victory for the New York Red Bulls against Philadelphia would effectively end the Fire’s hopes of extending its season. Despite the win over DC United not proving pivotal in the hunt for a playoff spot, the victory will forever live in the memories of Chicago Fire fans. It was more than just three points, it was more than just a dramatic win over a rival, and it was more than just a positive way to finish off the club’s away schedule for the season. It was a win for the ages, a win that instills belief in this team, and a win that everyone in the league will talk about for years to come. It was a comeback for the ages.
How did you vote? Readers at Chicago Fire Blog were asked to vote for their most memorable match of the 2011 campaign. Despite not qualifying for the playoffs this season, there were still a nuber of fantastic, nail biting matches to select from and a number of games that will be engraved into the minds of Fire supporters forever. The Fire snatched a few late winners throughout the season, but none will have been as memorable as our winner: DC United away. Hereâ€™s out how the votes turned out...
Final Report Card
On June 30th – after week 17 of the MLS season, I published the mid-term report card for the Fire. It’s amazing how much has changed since then both in terms of player and team performances. After starting the second half of the season off with four draws and three defeats, the Fire picked up 22 points from a possible 30 in the last ten matches of the season to miss out on a playoff spot by a mere four points. The Fire improved drastically across all areas of the pitch during the final stages of the season, although there were still those who fell out favor in the first team. Here is the final report card for each Chicago Fire player for the 2011 season. Feel free to let me know if you agree or disagree with certain grades in the comment section. Note: Only players making four or more appearances for the Fire are being graded.
Goalkeeper: Sean Johnson: A- (Mid-term grade: A-) Johnson has been so solid for the Fire this season, that it is often easy to forget that he was dropped to the bench after the first six games of the season by former Head Coach Carlos de los Cobos. Unfazed by his early season errors, Johnson regained his starting position and has demonstrated why he is one of the most talented young American goalkeepers, forcing many to call for USMNT Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann to call the 22-year-old into the US roster. Overall, a few mistakes here and there over the course of the season isn’t enough to overshadow a great sophomore season for Chicago’s #1.
point of the season, Conway clearly paid the price for several costly mistakes during a short stint in goal in the early stages of the season. At this point, the Fire may consider promoting 24-year-old reserve goalkeeper Alec Dufty to the Fire’s back-up ‘keeper in place of Conway.
Defense: Jalil Anibaba: A- (Mid-term grade: B+) For a player who struggled with inconsistency at the beginning of the season, Anibaba’s rise to becoming one of the best rookies in the league has been nothing short of phenomenal. He grew in stature as the season progressed and formed a burgeoning partnership with veteran Cory Gibbs at the heart of defense. His brace against Columbus in the final match of the season was the icing on a very promising season for the former North Carolina Tar Heel.
Cory Gibbs: A- (Mid-term grade: A-) Gibbs recovered from an early season injury and ended up being a vital part in helping Chicago ‘tighten the ship’ in defense. Started 26 games and also chipped in with three important goals. Provide some much needed leadership in defense, as well.
Yamith Cuesta: B- (Mid-term grade: A) Missed the beginning of the season as he was a late acquisition from Chivas USA, but he slotted into the team well and was a mainstay in defense during the first half of the season. A nightmare performance in Vancouver, followed by a few more questionable performances, saw him dropped from the starting eleven in favor of Anibaba and Josip Mikulic. Never received much of a chance to redeem himself.
Josip Mikulic: B (Mid-term grade: B) Jon Conway: D+ (Mid-term grade: C-) Failing to appear in a single match since the halfway
Only made 14 appearances this season due to injury but was relatively solid when called upon. A big asset against powerful, physical forwards but often struggled against attackers with pace.
Gonzalo Segares: A (Mid-term grade: A) Pause and allowed him to flourish at a more defenOne of the most consistent players for the Fire this season, Segares will most likely be remembered for conceding a late penalty against DC United before immediately bouncing back to propel the Fire to a stunning comeback in injury time. Provided stability in defense and demonstrated an incredible work ethic throughout.
Dan Gargan: AUnwanted in Toronto, the Fire acquired Dan Gargan from Toronto FC for Dasan Robinson and it proved to be a major coup for Chicago. Gargan slotted into the team seamlessly and demonstrated consistency at right-back. Scored a memorable goal against his old club in a 2-0 win and proved to RSL’s Fabian Espindola that he can battle with the best of them.
Midfield: Mike Videira: C- (Mid-term grade: B-) A mainstay in midfield under CLDC at the beginning of the season, Videira was criticized for numerous subpar performances at CM. After starting against LA on April 17th, Videira would only make three appearances throughout the rest of the season and never looked capable of breaking back into the starting XI.
Logan Pause: B+ (Mid-term grade: B) Experienced a difficult first half of the season but benefited from the acquisitions of Pavel Pardo and Sebastian Grazzini. Both signings took the pressure off
sive role in midfield. Also made more starts than any other midfielder in the squad and deserves credit for demonstrating good captaincy and leadership through many ups and downs this season.
Daniel Paladini: B- (Mid-term grade: B+) A solid debut season for the former NASL player. Sometimes struggled against higher quality teams, but was always Klopas’ first choice midfielder off the bench and did enough to prove himself worthy of a spot in the Fire’s first team.
Baggio Husidic: C (Mid-term grade: B-) Forced to wait for first-team opportunities by CLDC, Husidic provided much needed attacking impetus when he finally received a chance under Klopas. Failed to really take hold of his opportunities, however, and found himself out of favor for much of the season. A player with plenty of potential but yet to really receive a solid run in the first team.
Corben Bone: C- (Mid-term grade: C+) Like Husidic, found his opportunities limited this season due to the arrival of Grazzini and Pardo. Provided attacking impetus when he did play and showed signs of potential.
Patrick Nyarko: A- (Mid-term grade: B+) An indifferent start to the season was quickly forgotten as he quickly found a rich vein of form immediately following his move to forward alongside Dominic Oduro. Finished the season with a team high nine assists and was an essential part of Chicago’s play in the attacking third. (See chalkboard)
Pavel Pardo: AQuickly settled into the MLS and his debut goal at Toyota Park was the start of a great run in the team. Formed an effective partnership with Pause and was a key component both in breaking up opposition attacks and starting attacks for his own side.
Sebastian Grazzini: A Quite possibly the Fire’s best player since signing with the club in July, Grazzini was exactly what the Fire had
been missing before his arrival and his impact has been nothing short of phenomenal. Seba tallied five assists and four goals and his influence in attack was a huge reason for the Fire turning its season around. His absence in the US Open Cup Final due to injury proved costly.
Marco Pappa: A- (Mid-term grade: A) Enjoyed a very bright first half of the season and stepped up with several important goals. Failed to consistently replicate the form that saw him lead the Fire in goals last season, but was still a solid performer for the men in red and a key threat to opposing defenses. Criticized at times for being too selfish in possession and he may have finished in the top five in the league for shots attempted, but his eight goals were an important contribution and his hat-trick against RSL was one for the highlight reels.
Forwards: Diego Chaves: B- (Mid-term grade: A-) Enjoyed an incredible start to the season thatsaw him notch three goals in the first three games. Appearing destined for double digits in his first season in the MLS, Chaves faded as the season progressed and only managed to score three more goals throughout the rest of the season â€“ although vital goals they were.
Christian Nazarit: D+ (Mid-term grade: C+) A late acquisition to the squad at the beginning of the season, Nazarit took time to settle in the MLS and opened his scoring account with a memorable injury-time winner in Columbus. Despite showing small glimpses of being a talented center forward, Nazarit failed to find his feet and made just 12 appearances for the Fire this season â€“ going without a start since back-to-back defeats to Los Angeles and Portland. His performances forced many to wonder why he is the Fireâ€™s highest paid player.
Orr Barouch: B (Mid-term grade: B) Appeared in 28 league matches for the Fire, yet incredibly only made two starts. Despite failing to become a prominent figure in the starting eleven, Barouch often managed to provide a positive impact
when called upon. Chipped in with several important assists and did more than enough to prove that he has a future at this club.
Dominic Oduro: A (Mid-term grade: A) Three words immediately come to mind: Most Valuable Player. Oduro enjoyed a sensational season in Chicago, silencing the doubters en route to scoring a team high twelve goals in all competitions, including several vital goals both in the league and US Open Cup. His blistering pace and improved finishing ensured he would become the first player to score more than ten goals in a season for the Fire since Damani Ralph.
2011 Season Statistics GOALS Dominic Oduro Marco Pappa Diego Chaves Sebastian Grazzini Cory Gibbs
12 8 6 5 3
ASSISTS Patrick Nyarko Gonzalo Segares Pavel Pardo Sebastian Grazzini Baggio Husidic
9 5 4 4 2
STATS SHOTS Marco Pappa Dominic Oduro Diego Chaves Daniel Paladini Patrick Nyarko
92 76 49 37 33
SHOTS ON GOAL Marco Pappa Dominic Oduro Daniel Paladini Diego Chaves Patrick Nyarko
41 40 14 14 10
YELLOW CARDS Gonzalo Segares Daniel Paladini Cory Gibbs Diego Chaves Dominic Oduro
8 7 6 5 5
After opening the season with a win over Sporting KC, the Fire would go eleven matches without tasting victory.
The amount of minutes recorded
by Gonzalo Segares in league play.More than 300 more than any other player.
Season in numbers
29 8 The total amount of appearances by players who were traded or released from the Chicago Fire during the course of the season.
The amount of penalties the Fire were awarded this season in all competitions.
Season in numbers
Cristian Nazarit and Orr Barouchâ€™s goals per 90 minute ratio in MLS play
Goal difference in all competitions
Longest unbeaten streak:
Following a 2-1 loss to Philadelphia on the road, the Fire would go eight games unbeaten, albeit without a single win. In other words, the Fire recorded half of their season total of 16 draws during that stretch that lasted 42 days.
The amount of minutes the Fire held the lead against Manchester United
The average attendance at Toyota Park this season. (Decreased from 15,814 last year)
Most common scoreline (9 times)
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Look for more articles and special features throughout the off-season at Chicago Fire Blog - youâ€™re source to everything related to the Chicago Fire. Interested in writing about your first ever Chicago Fire match? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to share your first experience watching the beloved men in red for a chance to appear on the website.
T C E F . . R . s E e P r u t E c i R p U n i T C n I o s P a e s e h T
Thank you for reading the November issue of the Chicago Fire Fanzine. I hope you enjoyed this month’s edition and appreciated looking back on the highlights of the past season. It’s disappointing not to have been able to prolong the season into the MLS Playoffs, but the future is bright for this squad and there is plenty to look forward to next season. As always, feedback – positive or negative – is always beneficial and I welcome any comments you may have regarding this first issue. Feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com to let me know your thoughts. If you’re interested in contributing to the next issue of the Chicago Fire Fanzine, you can also send an e-mail to the same address above. In the meantime, enjoy the off-season!
Published on Nov 7, 2011
Published on Nov 7, 2011
A reflection on the 2011 MLS season and the moments that defined the Chicago Fire's season. Created by Chicago Fire Blog.